Martin Truex, Jr. Is Closing On The Regular Season Championship

Martin Truex, Jr.

After two consecutive drama-filled races that saw Martin Truex Jr. score a win at Watkins Glen International and runner-up at Michigan International Speedway, the Furniture Row Racing driver is now in position to mathematically clinch the regular season championship.

Truex enters Saturday night’s Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race with a 129-point lead over second place Kyle Larson. Truex will need to leave Bristol with at least a 121-point margin to clinch the NASCAR Cup Series regular season championship with two races remaining.

Winning the 26-race regular season championship is significant not only for prestige, but more importantly for securing an additional 15 playoff bonus points. Truex currently leads the NASCAR Cup Series with 35 playoff points. The 10-race playoffs start Sept. 17 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill.

Truex’s current series lead of 35 playoff points has been the result of winning four races (5 playoff points for each win) and claiming 15 stage victories (1 playoff point for each stage win).

“It might appear that we have a safe margin, but I’ve been around long enough to know that points can dwindle fairy quickly,” said Truex, who will drive the No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/Ducks Unlimited Toyota at Bristol. “The next three races – Bristol, Darlington and Richmond – are at tracks where the odds are higher of your day ending prematurely.  So that’s why I am not looking ahead or counting points. All the focus right now is getting a good result in Bristol.”

The half-mile Bristol short track hasn’t been one of Truex’s best over the years with two top fives and three top 10s in 23 starts. But his performance at this year’s spring race at Bristol did show that he can be a contender at the high-banked, all-concrete oval. Truex qualified third, won the first stage and finished eighth overall. He led more laps – 116 – than he did in his previous 22 Bristol starts.

“We all know the consequences of Bristol,” noted Truex. “It’s a place where you can go from having a good day to a bad day rather quickly. Staying on the lead lap and not suffering any major damage to your car are key to having any kind of success there. The luck factor also comes into play. We had a good run there in the spring and look forward to the same in our Bass Pro Shops/Ducks Unlimited Toyota.”

Heading into Bristol Truex leads the NASCAR Cup Series in the following categories: race wins (4), top-10 finishes (16), driver points (933), playoff bonus points (35), stage wins (15), stage points (312), laps led (1372), miles led (1970), fastest laps (825), average starting position (7.3), average finishing position (10.7), average running position (7.8) and driver ranking (114.4).

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Furniture Row Racing Reviews Their Qualifying Efforts At Michigan

Martin Truex, Jr and Erik Jones
Erik Jones qualified sixth and his Furniture Row Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. qualified 13th for Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

Jones will line up his No. 77 5-hour ENERGY Extra Strength Toyota on the outside of Row 4 after a pole-round lap of 35.678 seconds at 201.805 mph around the 2-mile oval.

“It was a good effort for the 5-hour ENERGY Toyota, starting eighth on the outside so that hopefully bodes well for a strong day for us Sunday,” said Jones. “We’re going out there for a win so everything we do, all the calls we make, are going to be more aggressive. We have to take risks on the strategy side, I have to take risks on the race track just to put ourselves in position for a win. Obviously, track position is king here at Michigan so I’m just going to try to get out front and, hopefully, a great car and great strategy will get us that win.”

Truex will line up the No. 78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Toyota on the inside of Row 7 after a second-round lap of 35.774 at 201.263. It’s just the fifth time in 23 races this season that Truex and the No. 78 team haven’t advanced to the pole round in qualifying.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

The Jersey Boy Aims To Hit Another High Note This Weekend

Martin Truex, Jr.
With Michigan International Speedway (MIS) being the next stop on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule, Martin Truex Jr. has a similar feeling to what he had before last week’s race at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International.

The week leading up to Watkins Glen, Truex, a Mayetta, N.J. native, felt he was overdue on a road course after dominating the Sonoma (Calif.) road race before a late-race mechanical issue forced him to the garage. The feeling was a positive forecast for Truex, who won the drama-filled, fuel mileage race at the Glen.

Entering Michigan, Truex said the June race at MIS slipped away and feels his No. 78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Toyota will have the power to contend for Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 victory on the 2-mile oval.

The June race winner at MIS – Kyle Larson – said that Truex’s car was the “class of the field” and Truex agreed 100 percent. But late-race restarts in the non-preferred inside lane dropped the Furniture Row Racing driver to a sixth-place finish.

“Without a shadow of a doubt we had the best car out there,” said Truex about the Michigan race in June. “But those inside lane restarts at the end did us in. I would be awfully surprised if we’re not contending for a win this weekend. The beauty of this team and working with Cole (crew chief, Cole Pearn) is that we enter every race knowing we have a shot at a victory. They keep on bringing fast cars to the track every week.”

With four races remaining in the regular season Truex leads the NASCAR Cup Series in key categories – driver points (116-point margin over second place), wins (4), playoff bonus points (34), stage wins (14) and laps led (1315). The regular season champion will receive an additional 15 playoff points.

Truex has garnered nine top fives and 15 top 10s in the first 22 races of the season. His 9 top fives is a personal season high.

“As a group, we’ve been together for four years now, and I think it’s just evolution of our group and what we’ve been doing,” explained Truex about the team’s success. “Last year was certainly a successful season but felt like we didn’t show how good we really were. We didn’t achieve the things that we thought we were capable of, and so this year I feel like we’ve done a better job. Obviously we’ve been more consistent with the points lead and the stage wins and all those things.

“I think it’s just a credit to the team for being consistent and the pit crew being awesome and not having a lot of mistakes, So really it’s just a work in progress all the time, and I feel like we’re getting to where we want to be.  But we’ve got to keep working hard. This sport is very tough. It changes week to week. You never know what the next week is going to bring or three weeks from now, and our ultimate goal this year is to win our first championship together.”

In 23 starts at Michigan, Truex has five top fives, eight top 10s and has led 150 laps.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

The Little Engine That Could Just Might Be The 2017 Cup Champion

Martin Teuex,Jr.

At a track where his father raced, and a track where he was a “garage rat” as a child, Martin Truex Jr. won Sunday’s I Love New York 355 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race by slowing down over the closing laps.

Truex let Brad Keselowski pass him for the lead on Lap 77 of 90. On instructions from crew chief Cole Pearn, Truex also let Ryan Blaney past his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota on Lap 83.

All the while, Truex was saving fuel, with Pearn calculating that both Keselowski and Blaney would have to stop for a splash of gas. The strategy played out as expected, with Keselowski giving up the lead for a trip to pit road on Lap 87 and Blaney following a lap later.

That left Truex to hold off a desperate charge from Matt Kenseth on the final lap, with Truex streaking across the finish line .414 seconds ahead of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Camry. Kenseth’s teammate, Daniel Suarez, rolled home in third to register a career-best result.

“I’m a little bit lost for words at the moment, just because I’ve been thinking about this one a long time – all weekend, all day,” said Truex, who won for the fourth time this season and the 11th time in his career.

“Then, at the end there, just it’s so hard there to let guys pass you for the lead. You’ve just got to listen to your crew chief and, luckily for me, I’ve got the best one in the business, and I just believe in him so much, and I just do what he says and it seems to work out.”

Kenseth, who remains on the playoff bubble with four races left before the 16-driver field is set, was disappointed at coming so close to the victory—one that would have guaranteed him a playoff spot.

“I’m second happiest,” said Kenseth who was also saving fuel and gunned it on the last lap. “Martin is the happiest. We really needed the win. Honestly, I don’t even think about the playoffs. I more think about coming here for however many, 15, 17, 18 years, whatever it’s been, and not really having a win or an opportunity to win and never even really been that great here.

“I felt like we had a top-five car. Obviously, we had good fortune there at the end with our track position and our fuel mileage and all that to stay in it and have a shot at it, but man, when it’s that close and you see him saving and you’re saving and then you go after him there on that last lap, it’s disappointing not to get it. Especially when I saw him miss Turn 6, I was like, ‘Man, I’m going to have a shot,’ and he was so fast I still couldn’t get to him getting into (Turn) 7.”

Polesitter Kyle Busch led all 20 laps of the race’s first stage, but a snafu on pit road left his left front wheel loose, and Busch had to return under caution during the stage break to correct the problem. That left him deep in the field for the subsequent restart on Lap 25.

Busch worked his way back into the top 10, but after restarting ninth on Lap 45, his No. 18 Toyota and Keselowski’s No. 2 Ford collided in the bus stop chicane, sending both cars off course. Busch wasn’t a contender for the victory after that, though he did rally to finish seventh.

Furniture Row Racing because of where they are based, Denver, Colorado, was known as “the little engine that could”.  Well, Barney Visser and Furniture Row Racing has turned themselves into a dominating championship caliber race team!

Notes: Truex expanded his series lead to 116 points over Kyle Busch, who moved past 23rd-place finisher Kyle Larson for second place. … Truex also increased his playoff point total to 34. Three-time winner Jimmie Johnson is second with 16. … Busch collected his ninth stage win to raise his playoff point total to 14. … The three winless drivers currently in playoff-eligible positions (Chase Elliott, Jamie McMurray and Kenseth) are seventh, eighth and ninth in the standings, respectively, all within an 11-point range.

Check out the unofficial results of the I Love New York 355 at The Glen.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Can Martin Truex, Jr. Close The Deal At The Glen?

Martin Teuex,Jr.
It’s not just one that got away, but more like three that got away from Martin Truex Jr. when it comes to road course racing.

With the second and final NASCAR Cup Series road race of the season scheduled for Sunday at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International, Truex feels his No. 78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Toyota will once again be contending for a trip to Victory Lane.

Two years ago at the central New York 2.45-mile road circuit, Truex felt he was in position to win the fuel mileage race, having enough gas in the tank to pass the leaders. But a cut tire as a result of contact with another car on a late-race restart squelched his shot at a victory.

“I thought we had that one, our strategy played out perfectly until we got rammed by another car,” recalled Truex.

Last year at the Glen, Truex was running down leader Denny Hamlin but on the final lap he got bumped from behind and spun out. He still managed to pull off a seventh-place finish.

“It was close, I was right there with Denny,” said Truex. “It would have been nice to see if we could have caught him.”

And back in June at the Sonoma Raceway road course Truex’s No. 78 Camry was the class of the field, but an engine failure late in the race sent him to the garage.

“Before the engine expired, we were running on seven cylinders and still posting one of the fastest laps – that’s how good of a car we had.”

Though he has missed out on some recent road race victories, Truex knows how to finish off a NASCAR Cup road race. His second career win came at Sonoma Raceway in 2013.

“All we want this weekend is a similar performance to what we had in our recent road races,” said Truex. “Those were winning performances but problems beyond our control prevented our Furniture Row Racing team from getting the victory. Sooner than later the road races have to play in our favor.”

After 21 races, Truex has scored three wins, eight top fives and 14 top 10s. He leads the driver standings by an 85-point margin. He also leads in playoff points with 29. The driver who ranks No. 1 after the 26-race regular season will earn an additional 15 playoff points.

Truex’s career record at Watkins Glen includes: 11 starts, three top fives and six top 10s. His starting average is 15.9 and finishing average is 13.1. He has completed 100 percent of the laps – 992 out of 992.

The 90-lap I Love New York 355 at the Glen will consist of three stages of 20/20/50 laps (laps 20/40/90).

Truex’s Cup Record at Watkins Glen International

 

Year Start Finish Status/Laps Laps Led
2006 35 28 Running, 90/90 0
2007 12 6 Running, 90/90 0
2008 18 5 Running, 90/90 0
2009 23 28 Running, 90/90 0
2010 25 15 Running, 90/90 0
2011 9 4 Running, 92/92 0
2012 9 10 Running, 90/90 0
2013 3 3 Running, 90/90 0
2014 25 13 Running, 90/90 0
2015 2 25 Running, 90/90 5
2016 14 7 Running, 90/90 1

 

Watkins Glen International Totals

 

Races Win T5 T10 Pole Laps Led Laps Completed AvgSt AvgFn DNF
11 0 3 6 0 6 992 of 992

100%

15.9 13.1 0

And back in June at the Sonoma Raceway road course Truex’s No. 78 Camry was the class of the field, but an engine failure late in the race sent him to the garage.

“Before the engine expired, we were running on seven cylinders and still posting one of the fastest laps – that’s how good of a car we had.”

Though he has missed out on some recent road race victories, Truex knows how to finish off a NASCAR Cup road race. His second career win came at Sonoma Raceway in 2013.

“All we want this weekend is a similar performance to what we had in our recent road races,” said Truex. “Those were winning performances but problems beyond our control prevented our Furniture Row Racing team from getting the victory. Sooner than later the road races have to play in our favor.”

After 21 races, Truex has scored three wins, eight top fives and 14 top 10s. He leads the driver standings by an 85-point margin. He also leads in playoff points with 29. The driver who ranks No. 1 after the 26-race regular season will earn an additional 15 playoff points.

Truex’s career record at Watkins Glen includes: 11 starts, three top fives and six top 10s. His starting average is 15.9 and finishing average is 13.1. He has completed 100 percent of the laps – 992 out of 992.

The 90-lap I Love New York 355 at the Glen will consist of three stages of 20/20/50 laps (laps 20/40/90).

Truex’s Cup Record at Watkins Glen International

 

Year Start Finish Status/Laps Laps Led
2006 35 28 Running, 90/90 0
2007 12 6 Running, 90/90 0
2008 18 5 Running, 90/90 0
2009 23 28 Running, 90/90 0
2010 25 15 Running, 90/90 0
2011 9 4 Running, 92/92 0
2012 9 10 Running, 90/90 0
2013 3 3 Running, 90/90 0
2014 25 13 Running, 90/90 0
2015 2 25 Running, 90/90 5
2016 14 7 Running, 90/90 1

 

Watkins Glen International Totals

 

Races Win T5 T10 Pole Laps Led Laps Completed AvgSt AvgFn DNF
11 0 3 6 0 6 992 of 992

100%

15.9 13.1 0

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Ryan Truex Has A Roll Model For Patience

Image result for ryan truex

Martin Truex Jr. is enjoying life at the top of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series pyramid.

He’s the series leader in points. Entering Sunday’s Overton’s 400 at Pocono Raceway, he’s tied for the series lead in victories with three. And he’s the runaway leader in playoff points with 29, a whopping 14 coming from stage wins.

Truex is at the top of his game, with a team that’s a perfect fit for his personality and driving style. Just don’t forget that it took him 10 years to get there.

That’s why Truex’s younger brother Ryan, who is racing in Saturday’s Overton’s 150 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event, isn’t overly concerned with the state of his career.

Ryan Truex is seven years into a NASCAR journey that has taken him from the K&N Pro Series to sporadic starts in all three of the sanctioning body’s top touring series. This year is the first time, however, that Truex has enjoyed a full-time ride with an established team and a solid, consistent crew.

“Honestly, it’s motivation more than anything,” Ryan said of his brother’s success with Furniture Row Racing. “Just to see everything he’s gone through. When he came into this sport, it kind of seemed like it all came pretty easily for him. In the XFINITY Series and up to the (Monster Energy NASCAR) Cup Series, he was just able to progress really quickly and run really well.

“Then he started to struggle in the later DEI (Dale Earnhardt Inc.) days, when it transitioned to Earnhardt Ganassi. Then, when he went to MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing) with (sponsor) NAPA, things were starting to look up. He finally won that race (at Sonoma in 2013) that got the monkey off his back and made the Chase.”

But the roller coaster ride was far from over. When MWR was penalized for manipulating the outcome of the 2013 regular-season finale at Richmond, Truex lost his spot in the playoff and NAPA left the organization, leaving Truex without a job.

“He didn’t know if he’d even have a ride after that year,” said Ryan, who at 25 is 12 years younger than his brother. “But, honestly, it might be the best thing that ever happened to him, because he went to Furniture Row…

“Seeing all that, it’s taken him 10 years to get all that stuff lined up, for the stars to all align. So when I look at my career and how I’ve kind of jumped around – starting my career, I kind of moved up really quick – and kind of hit the XFINITY Series at the wrong time.”

Ryan was 18 when he ran seven XFINITY races for MWR in 2010. Racing for team owner Shigeaki Hattori this season, he’s currently eighth in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series standings, fighting for one of eight available spots in the playoffs.

“I’ve been racing in NASCAR for seven years, and I’m finally full-time,” Ryan said. “Seeing him (Martin) go through that and finally, 10 years later, getting what he needed to go out and be a contender for a championship, it motivates me and keeps me comfortable in knowing that I’ve got time.”

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Truex Is Positioning Himself For A Championship Run

Martin Teuex,Jr.
As the regular season is in the homestretch with six races remaining, interest is starting to crescendo about the 15 playoff bonus points that will be awarded to the regular season champion.

The six regular season races remaining are Pocono (this weekend) followed by Watkins Glen, Michigan, Bristol, Darlington and Richmond.

The 10-race playoff for the NASCAR Cup Series championship commences on Sept. 17 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill.

The good news for current points leader Martin Truex Jr. is that the remaining six regular season races are at venues where he has had strong runs in his No. 78 Toyota Camry. He is currently 48 points ahead of Kyle Larson in the driver standings.

The Furniture Row Racing driver has already accumulated a series high of 29 playoff points as a result of three overall victories and 14 stage wins. (five playoff points for a win and one point for a stage win)

“Our guys back at the shop in Denver have given me fast Toyota Camrys at whatever track configuration we compete on,” said Truex, who will drive the No. 78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Toyota at Pocono. “But let’s be honest, no matter how fast your car is, there are those uncontrollable variables that can easily make a good day turn into a bad day. With that said we aren’t putting ourselves ahead of the game. All focus right now is strictly on Pocono.”

Since winning the June 2015 race at Pocono, Truex has been competitive at the 2.5-mile triangular track, but hasn’t been able to nail down a second victory.

“We always seem to be competitive at Pocono and probably should have had another win there,” noted Truex, who finished sixth at Pocono in the June race. “Since that victory two years ago we’ve been on the pole at Pocono, led laps and contended for wins. But haven’t been able to close the deal. Hopefully this weekend it will all come together.”

Truex added, “They call the track the tricky triangle and it is tricky with the long straightaway and three different turns. The guys who are good there make their cars work in all three turns. If one turn is off, you better figure out a way not to mess up the other turns. I always look forward to Pocono. Got some good fishing holes up there as well.”

In 23 starts at Pocono, Truex has one win, three top fives, eight top 10s, one pole, 135 laps led,16.2 starting average and a 16.0 finishing average.

As the season winds down prior to the playoffs, it is very apparent that Truex is a serious contender for the 2017 championship.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Truex and Jones Both Wreck At Indy

Martin Truex, Jr and Erik Jones
Furniture Row Racing driver Martin Truex Jr. and Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch had the dominant cars in Sunday’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

But after a restart with 50 laps remaining in the scheduled 160-lap race Truex and Busch were running 1-2 respectively. But by the time their Camrys got to Turn 1 and fighting for the lead the Toyota drivers got tangled which triggered a race-ending accident for both Truex and Busch. Truex finished 33rd and Busch 34th in a NASCAR Cup Series race that was red flagged three times, once for rain (nearly two hours) and two other times for accidents.

Truex’s No. 78 Auto-Owners Insurance Camry hit the wall sideways and then erupted into a gulf of flames. Truex managed to exit the car and was later evaluated and released at the track’s infield medical center.

Truex’s Furniture Row Racing teammate Erik Jones also saw his race end early when he was involved in a lap 148 multicar accident.

Truex didn’t offer any excuses or sidestep the issue of who was at fault during his live interview on NBC.

“I just got loose and wrecked him – totally my fault,” said Truex. “Didn’t really know what to expect in that position and didn’t really realize that he was going to drive in that deep and suck me around. I will take the blame for that and obviously it was my fault. I hate it for Kyle (Busch), he had a great car and we did as well, but that’s racing. Glad I was able to get out, fire was bad. I had no brakes and I had to run into the wall a second time just to get it to stop so I could get out. Fortunately, I’m okay and we’ll live to race another day.”

When asked if he felt he had no other choice than to race Busch on that restart Truex said, “We worked well together and that’s the hard part about this stuff is when it’s time to go. I feel awful and just made a mistake. Definitely should have picked the outside and it would have been fine I guess. Just the way it goes. Hate it for Auto Owners and everyone involved at Furniture Row. We had an awesome car today and we got out front, I don’t think they were going to be able to beat us. A mistake on my part took us out of it, but we’ll get them next week.”

Though he took an early exit, Truex actually increased his driver points lead over second-place Kyle Larson. Truex came into the race with a 38-point lead and leaves with a 48-point lead, thanks to a pair of second-place finishes in each of the first two stages that gave him an additional 18 championship points.

Jones, driving the No. 77 Sport Clips Toyota, saw his day end when he was involved in Lap 148 multicar wreck while running 17th.  He was credited with a 31st-place finish.

Jones finished 12th in Stage 1 and picked up seven championship points by finishing fourth in Stage 2.

“Well, I got under the 14 (Clint Bowyer) off of (Turn) 4 and there were some lapped cars in front of us,” said Jones. “I was almost at his door and wrecked me and him. It looks like the 41 (Kurt Busch) got into it somehow, so it’s just unfortunate. There’s just been a lot of stuff like that to us this year. It seemed like our Sport Clips Camry was fast, got better all day and we had a top-five car. Just didn’t get to see it all play out. It’s been the story of our season. We’ve run well, run up front, just haven’t been able to close the races out whether it’s our own fault, bad luck or other circumstances. We know we can take a lot away from it.”

The 21-year-old rookie is 17th in the point standings, three points behind the 16th-place driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

The race winner was Kasey Kahne.  Rounding out the top 10 in order were:  Brad Keselowski, Ryan Newman, Joey Logano, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Daniel Suarez, Matt Dibenedetto, Chris Buescher and AJ Allmendinger.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Furniture Row Racing Drivers Had Good Qualifying Runs At Indy

Martin Teuex,Jr.
Martin Truex Jr. qualified sixth and his Furniture Row Racing teammate Erik Jones qualified ninth for Sunday’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Truex will line up his No. 78 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota Camry on the outside of Row 3 after a pole-round lap of 48.456 seconds at 185.736 mph around the 2.5-mile oval. It will be the best career starting position at IMS for Truex who qualified eighth in last year’s race.

“It was okay, I think this is the best I’ve ever qualified here, which is good, but a little disappointed,” said Truex. “I thought the Auto-Owners Insurance Camry was better than that after the second round and just made some tweaks – the guys made some really good adjustments for round three – and I just didn’t hit my marks. I messed up Turn 2 and cost us a lot of time down the backstretch, so I guess to be sixth is okay, but looking forward to hopefully doing better than that tomorrow.”

Eri Jones

Erik Jones will line up the No. 77 Sport Clips Toyota Camry on the inside of Row 5 after a pole-round lap of 48.677 at 184.892. It will be the first NASCAR Cup Series start at IMS for Jones who started second and finished 22nd in last year’s NASCAR XFINITY Series race.

“We had a good pole-round lap,” said Jones. “We kept trying to get the Sport Clips Toyota better and better each round, but just jumped the fence and went too free and kind of gave up a lot of time really in Turns 1 and 2.”

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Truex Is Really Tough When Auto Owners Insurance Is On The Car

Martin Truex, Jr & Jimmie Johnson
In a short period of time the blue Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota paint scheme for Furniture Row Racing has made a potent statement in the NASCAR Cup Series.

“Yeah, there is no question when the blue Auto-Owners Toyota hits the track it either wins or is right there competing for a win,” said driver Martin Truex Jr., who leads in the overall driver point standings and also the playoff standings.

A look down memory lane will validate what Truex is saying when Auto-Owners has been the primary sponsor on his No. 78 Toyota Camry.

The Auto-Owners/Furniture Row Racing partnership started one year ago in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway where Truex was running in the top three late in the race. However, due to a flurry of cautions, Truex settled for an eighth-place finish when the race was completed in overtime.

But the next race for the blue car is one that Truex remembers with mega fondness after winning the Southern 500 crown jewel at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.

“Winning the iconic Southern 500 will go down as one of my biggest, if not the biggest victory of my career to date,” said Truex.

Truex and Auto Owners ended the 2016 season with a seventh-place finish at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.

The first two races of the current season with the Auto-Owners sponsorship have produced similar results for Truex. He won at Kansas Speedway and placed sixth at Michigan International Speedway.

In five career races with Auto-Owners Insurance as the primary, Truex has two wins and five top 10s and an average finish of 4.4.

“Any way you look at it, that’s a pretty good average,” said Truex. “You know, we should have won the Michigan race too. The Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota was without a doubt the best car on that Sunday.”

Truex and Auto-Owners will team up again in the Brickyard 400 scheduled for Sunday at the fabled 2.5-mile oval.

“This is going to be a tough race because it takes so many different things to be fast there,” explained Truex, a three-time winner this season. “The track has long straightaways and flat corners. You just have to have everything go your way at Indy. The hardest part is managing all four corners. They look the same but they are definitely different. Some have bumps and some are slippery – it’s just a tough challenge.

“Stage racing is going to have an effect too. Everybody looks at Indy like it’s a road course. It will be a challenge to try and win the stages and also try to win the race. You have to have track position at Indy. Some tough decisions will have to be made during the race.”

In 12 career starts at the Brickyard 400, Truex has one top five and three top 10s. He had finishes of fourth and eighth the past two years.

Truex’s Toyotas have consistently been fast. He is tied for most race wins at three with Jimmie Johnson. He is the leader in driver points (758), playoff bonus points (29), stage wins (14), stage points (250), laps led (1252), miles led (1700), fastest laps (702), average starting position (7.5), average running position (8.1) and driver ranking (112.6).

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!